Graham Durwardâs paintings explore the power of images. Durward develops his paintings from photographs that he finds or takes himself. In his paintings he tries to capture a sense of sublimation; his works suggest both sensuality and distance. His muted tones and ephemeral brushwork describe the intangible with a fixation or longing. âI wanted to talk about a kind of contemporary aura that you could relate to a sacred experience,â Durward explains. âMy images have an immediate or contemporary feel, an Ethernet aura, that becomes an âothernessâ. Each image alludes to the unseen, a part of the world with its own ambience. I think about my work in analytically poetic terms. All the themes relate to some kind of solitude wrapped up somewhere inside desire.â
Graham Durward Untitled (Incense Negative)
Oil on linen
152.4 x 106.7 cm
Though Durwardâs Untitled paintings appear abstract, they are actually representations of burning incense. Durward chose to paint incense because of its immateriality and association to ritual. These ideas are echoed through his painting style. In Untitled, the billows of smoke are retraced with the artistâs brush, the gestures replicate both what the vapour looks like as well as its ârealâ properties of non-physicality and movement. âI like to stress the documentary aspect in relation to seductive painting,â Durward says. âItâs important to me not to give too much information about the works. I construct them to be experienced in an unmediated way. They donât enter into an artwork dialogue. Where the image comes from should be made as immediate to the viewer as it was to me.â
Graham Durward Untitled (Man With Fruit)
Oil on linen
86.4 x 61 cm
Durwardâs process of photographing then painting an image relates to film. His subjects are selected and framed, and the act of translating an image from one medium to another has a sequential aspect. Though Durwardâs subjects vary, he views his paintings as being interconnected or related, like stills from different scenes in a non-existent movie. Untitled was made from photographs Durward took of a model he hired via the Internet. Rendered in soft fleshy tones, the figure is inviting yet inaccessible. More like an apparition or memory than a physical presence, the body recedes to give prominence to the pomegranate, a traditional symbol for desire and faith.
Graham Durward Hotmail
Oil on linen
81.3 x 63.5 cm
âHotmail is from an image I found on the Internet, and is part of an ongoing series of solitary men. I was attracted to people who masked their faces in a crude way using Photoshop to protect their anonymity. I saw this as a kind of primitive painting and wanted to emulate or exploit this. Iâm interested in how people try to manage their own image in photographs, or use images as a kind of disguise. There is an element to my work that relates to a pre-modernist response to the contemporary world. Itâs too easy to read these types of images in a moralising way and I want to contradict that. I think this portrait is melancholic, but at the same time there is a beauty to it, a poignancy.â
(exhibit at Sandra Gering, New York City) 1993
From: Artforum International | Date: 4/1/1993 | Author: Perchuk, Andrew
Graham Durward's mixed-media exhibit at Sandra Gering in New York City examined the male identity by bringing to life its latent insecurities such as grotesque fantasies, existential physical realities and the impossibility of reaching role model status. This debunking of masculinity was presented with honesty, humor and an attitude hardly erotic.
In his recent work, Graham Durward takes on the archetype of the male artist-hero who derives his power from a manifest masculinity. Durward's earlier work reflected a fluid notion of male identity; his large drawing of a hermaphrodite, Untitled, 1991, transformed the body to emphasize the mutability of heterosexual and homosexual practices. Combined with his intentionally schizophrenic writings, which detail a polymorphously perverse sexuality, this work was located at the edge of identity--where identity begins to fragment. His more recent works question the tenability of culturally defined male roles.
The exhibition began by pumping up the male ego until it exploded in phantasmagoric emissions. Determinedly unerotic, these works depict neither a nude Ubermann nor Everyman, but, rather, a half-naked Durward, denying the pleasure to be found in mythologized images of masculinity. Weights, 1992, presents an inverted ziggurat comprised of small photographs of a topless Durward in skin-tight bicycle shorts striking various bodybuilder poses. In Panaroma, 1992, he appears with "exclusive" stenciled across the waistband of his shorts and a woman ecstatically sniffing his crotch. Durward's point is that these male fantasies, unpalatable as they may be, are not going to disappear, nor can they be wished away: they must be unapologetically confronted.
As part of this position of intentional provocation, Durward attempts to demythologize the artwork; these pieces are bluntly, banally made, with little thought given to presentation or craft. Snow Drift, 1992, a large mound of artificial snow heavily stained with urine, points to the act of physically marking one's territory as central to the masculine masquerade--with the inevitable tear shed at the white snow's loss of purity. Black Emanation, 1992, is a parody of one of Julian Schna-bel's black velvet paintings in which Durward has seemingly ejaculated on the surface and initialed each of the resulting rivulets. He aspires to the heroics of the '50s and early '80s, but at the same time the self-consciousness and historical perspective of his pieces acknowledge the absurdity of his efforts.